Experts say Xi will be looking for a smooth summit with Biden to show those at home concerned about the economy and dwindling foreign investment that he can successfully handle relations between the world’s two largest economies.
Efforts to carefully choreograph his visit may be upended in San Francisco despite efforts to drive homeless people from the streets. Xi’s route from the airport to the conference site on Tuesday was lined with demonstrators for and against China’s ruling Communist Party, an unusual sight for the leader, who last visited the United States in 2017.
Biden has sought direct diplomacy with Xi, betting that a personal relationship he has cultivated for a dozen years with the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong might salvage ties that have turned increasingly hostile.
Chong Ja Ian, a political science professor at the National University of Singapore, said the two sides are engaged in what Mao referred to during China’s civil war as “talk and fight, fight and talk”.
“That is, to talk while building up forces,” Chong said.
Biden is expected to press Xi to use his influence to urge Iran to avoid action that could spread the Israel-Hamas conflict across the Middle East.
He is also expected to raise alleged Chinese operations to influence foreign elections and human rights, including US citizens Washington believes are wrongly detained in China.
US officials expect concrete steps to restore staff-level conversations between the countries on issues from military-to-military communications, to reducing the flow of fentanyl, managing artificial intelligence, and on trade and climate.
Many of the chemicals used to make fentanyl, a scourge in the US, come from China, US officials say.
Chinese state media reported that both countries have agreed to resume high-level communication between their two militaries including working meetings between the departments of defence.
Xi also said both sides agreed to establish a China-US anti-drug cooperation working group, state broadcaster CCTV said.